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Recycling is a common practice these days as it is for one reason: convenience. When recycling programs were in their infancy, people had to take aluminum cans to collection facilities and pre-sort all of their recyclables. Now, there is a big blue bin in just about every driveway in the United States. The easier you make something; the more likely people are to do it.
So, what happens to those “ difficult to recycle” items in our houses? They end up in the landfill or are incinerated, no matter how much recyclable material they are made with. Infant car seats are a perfect example.
Why are child safety car seats so difficult to recycle?1. Safety Car Seat is Not Designed with Recycling in Mind
The quality and safety standards mandated for car safety seat manufacturing by the national highway traffic safety administration, in conjunction with the American Academy of Pediatric are, rightfully so, extremely high. This means for example that only the highest-grade plastics and metals are used and that they cannot be made with recycled materials in any form. In addition, to keep a child safe, the seats are specifically designed to handle large amounts of force without compromising their structure, which makes them very difficult to disassemble. If you thought installing a child car seat was a pain, try dismantling them to separate the plastics, from the metal, the foam covers, or the nylon. It is not an easy task. In short, their structural strength is a recycling weakness.2. The Recycling Process is Expensive.
Recycling 101 shows that when there is a high demand for recycled raw material, such as post consumers recycled plastic, the value of the recycled material can offset the cost of separating, cleaning, grinding, and processing the material – which, in turn, makes recycling cheaper. The high demand for recycled raw material creates enough incentive for recyclers to invest large capital to set up recycling plants, which makes it easier for consumers and corporations to recycle used materials. When things are easier to recycle, that facilitates the flow of material and reduces overall processing costs. The entire cycle is a beautiful thing… when it works.
What we are facing now, is the complete opposite of that scenario. Global recycling rates for plastic, in general, is less than 10%, polypropylene is a small portion of that, and the cost of manufacturing plastic with virgin, petro-chemicals is depressed because the price of oil is low. What does it mean? Today, the value of the recycled plastics processed from recycling a car seat is worth about $1. This is clearly not enough to offset the time, energy, and equipment required to recycle a car seat.
Now, landfilling or incinerating a cart seat is not cheap either. Even if one is not accounting for the environmental cost of plastic pollution and toxic emissions, consumers who throw away their old, broken, recalled car seat spend probably around $10. You don’t see it because the cost is hidden in your average monthly bill, but it is real. And when you take into account that 10-12 million car seats are purchased every year in the US and only 10% are recycled. That’s $100 million spent in further polluting the environment.The Solution To The Hard To Recycle Car Seat Problem
Clearly, we can do better to keep our children safe while reducing the environmental pollution. This is why we created the only nationwide car seat recycling program.